Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’

The Houston Texans had been told that their former quarterback Deshaun Watson was sexually assaulting and harassing women during massage sessions, but instead of trying to stop him, the team provided him with resources to enable his actions and “turned a blind eye” to his behavior, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit against the team was filed in Houston by one of the 24 women who had previously sued Watson over allegations of sexual misconduct when he played for the Texans. Last week, the women’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, announced 20 of the 24 lawsuits have been settled.

Watson, who was later traded to the Cleveland Browns, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. Watson is facing discipline from the NFL over the allegations. He is set to have a hearing this week with NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who will decide if the 26-year-old violated the league’s personal conduct policy. Robinson is expected to rule before the Browns open training camp late next month.

In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will during massage appointments. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.

The lawsuit against the Texans accuses the team and some of its employees of having been told or being aware of Watson’s troubling behavior. Joni Honn, the owner of a massage company that was contracted with the Texans, told police investigators that her therapists were aware of Watson’s “known tendency to push boundaries during massage sessions,” according to the lawsuit.

Honn told the Texans, including the team’s head trainer, that Watson was reaching out to random women on Instagram for massages in early 2020, according to the lawsuit.

Magen Weisheit, another massage therapist who worked with the Texans, told Houston police investigators she and others were well aware of Watson’s conduct during massage sessions. When Weisheit learned of the allegations made against Watson by a woman who filed the first lawsuit against him, she wrote in a text to the woman’s former co-worker that she could reach out to the team’s player personnel person but “they don’t do much about the situation though,” according to the lawsuit.

“Despite being actually aware of what can only be described as troubling behavior, the Houston Texans turned a blind eye. Worse, the Houston Texans organization enabled Watson’s egregious behavior. The Texans also protected and shielded Watson — for Watson’s own protection and the protection of the organization itself,” according to the lawsuit.

The woman’s lawsuit alleges the Texans provided Watson with various resources, including rooms at a Houston hotel, massage tables and a non-disclosure agreement the women were told to sign, that allowed the quarterback “to further his misconduct with women by turning the massage sessions into something sexual.”

The Texans are also accused of having their head of security remove from the internet an Instagram video from November 2020 in which a woman had detailed alleged misconduct by Watson during massage sessions with her.

In a statement, the Houston Texans did not specifically address the various allegations made against the team.

“We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today. Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization,” the Texans said.

Buzbee said the lawsuit against the Texans was the first of many he plans to file against the team.

“Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning. We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson’s conduct,” Buzbee said in a statement.

The NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit against the Texans.

“I never assaulted anyone,” Watson said June 14 in his first public comments since being introduced by the Browns in March. “I never harassed anyone or I never disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”

In March, two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.

Houston police Detective Kamesha Baker, the lead investigator in the criminal investigation, told Buzbee in a deposition that she believed Watson had committed crimes in the 10 criminal complaints that had been filed against the quarterback. Baker also said that Watson’s conduct during the massage sessions was escalating in such a way she believed that he would commit even more serious crimes, according to the lawsuit.

After the grand juries declined to indict, several teams pursued Watson, who agreed to be traded to the Browns. Cleveland signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a five-year, $230 million contract in March.

The four lawsuits still pending against Watson could still go to trial, but that wouldn’t happen until 2023 at the earliest.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson reached settlements with 20 of the 24 women who sued him and accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage sessions, the attorney representing the women announced Tuesday.

“Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled,” attorney Tony Buzbee said in a statement, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won’t comment further on the settlements or those cases.”

One of the cases still outstanding is the lawsuit of Ashley Solis, the first plaintiff to sue Watson.

“Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story,” Buzbee stated. “Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases in due course, consistent with other docket obligations and the court’s schedule.”

Watson remains subject to an NFL investigation into his conduct. The first lawsuit against the quarterback was filed March 16, 2021, and the incidents cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021.

“Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement Tuesday, according to Trotter.

Watson didn’t play last year after requesting a trade from the Houston Texans. The Browns acquired him from the Texans on March 18 and signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230-million contract.

The 26-year-old was traded days after a grand jury in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges. A second grand jury did the same.

As of this writing, WWE is now under investigation from five different law firms.

Originally reported as three firms by Mike Johnson over at PWInsider, Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics has an update that the number of legal companies currently looking into WWE now stands at five. The firms looking to take class action against Vince McMahon’s promotion are Scott+Scott, Rosen Law Firm, Schall Law Firm, Bragel Eagel & Squire, and Labaton Sucharow.

These investigations are in regards to WWE potentially violating federal securities laws.

To quote the Schall Law Firm – which mirrors the sentiments of the other aforementioned legal organisations – this pertains to:

The investigation focuses on whether the Company issued false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose information pertinent to investors. WWE is the the subject of a June 15, 2022, article in the Wall Street Journal titled: “WWE Board Probes Secret $3 Million Hush Pact by CEO Vince McMahon, Sources Say.” According to the article, the Company’s board “is investigating a secret $3 million settlement that longtime chief executive Vince McMahon agreed to pay to a departing employee with whom he allegedly had an affair, according to documents and people familiar with the board inquiry.” The article continues, “the board’s investigation, which began in April, has unearthed other, older nondisclosure agreements involving claims by former female WWE employees of misconduct by Mr. McMahon and one of his top executives, John Laurinaitis, the head of talent relations at WWE, the people said.” On June 17, 2022, the Company issued a press release stating, “a Special Committee of the Board is conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct by its Chairman and CEO Vincent McMahon and John Laurinaitis, head of talent relations, and that, effective immediately, McMahon has voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities as CEO and Chairman of the Board until the conclusion of the investigation.”

All law firms investigating this have encouraged any shareholders impacted by these recent events to get in touch with them.

Of course, in the aftermath of these allegations being made public last week, Vince McMahon opted to make rare appearances on this past Friday’s SmackDown and last night’s Raw. Coming across to the majority of watching audiences as tone deaf at best, and egotistically arrogant at worst, these appearances saw McMahon do a whole lot of nothing while seemingly doing his best to show that it’s very much business as usual for Vince and WWE.

As mentioned above, a company statement announced that McMahon has stepped away from CEO and Chairman responsibilities while the WWE board’s investigation takes place, but Vince is still very much in control of the promotion’s creative direction.

Cross one legal headache from Vince McMahon’s list of things to worry about.

Settlement talks had broken down between McMahon and Oliver Luck, who had been commissioner of the rebooted XFL football league. Vince claimed the executive had been fired for cause; Luck believed it was a cost-cutting move ahead of shuttering the whole operation at the start of the pandemic.

Luck was suing for the roughly $24 million in compensation he said he was due. McMahon’s counter-claim focused on Luck’s signing of wide receiver Antonio Callaway, whose 2018 legal issues violated the league’s mandate to not sign players with any off-the-field issues. In depositions, Luck’s lawyers brought up McMahon’s own felony charge from his 1994 federal steroid trial, seemingly to demonstrate the mandate was hypocritical.

Last Wednesday (June 15), as we learned the Luck suit was headed to trial in July, the Wall Street Journal’s report on the WWE Board’s investigation into alleged misconduct by McMahon hit. Vince has since stepped down from his roles as CEO & Chairman, with his daughter Stephanie assuming those responsibilities on an interim basis.

Sports Business Journal now says a recent court filing shows that Luck & McMahon have agreed to settle. In a June 17 brief to the court requesting the remaining records in the case be sealed, Luck’s lawyer Paul Dobrowski wrote: ”The parties reached an agreement to resolve this case on June 16, 2022.” McMahon’s lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, does not oppose the motion.

Terms of the settlement are unknown. But with this off their plate, McMahon & McDevitt can focus on defending Vince during the board’s investigation into alleged hush money payments to former WWE employees.

In a story entirely unrelated to the Vince McMahon news currently dominating the cycle, the WWE Chairman is set to go to trial over a compensation claim relating to the XFL.

The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan reported that McMahon and former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck are suing each other after settlement talks broke down after just nine minutes.

Pro Football Talk had the full story, noting that Luck is suing McMahon for $23.8million in compensation from his former XFL contract after providing a personal guarantee that he’d be paid. In response, McMahon has countersued with allegations that the XFL’s parent company Alpha Entertainment incurred damages of over $572,000 as a result of Luck breaching his contract and associated duties.

McMahon officially relaunched the XFL under the Alpha Entertainment banner in January 2018, with the football itself kicking back off in February 2020. Operations were subsequently suspended at the onset of the global pandemic, and Luck and the rest of the XFL staff were all let go in April. XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings just days later.

The pair will go to trial on July 11th.

Los Angeles Chargers controlling owner Dean Spanos has been accused of repeated breaches of fiduciary duty and misogynistic behavior in a lawsuit filed by his sister.

The filing escalates the ongoing battle among the four Spanos siblings over control of the franchise.

Dea Spanos Berberian filed a petition Thursday in San Joaquin County Superior Court seeking sole control of the family trust that has a 36% stake in the ownership of the Chargers. The lawsuit also asks the court to suspend and remove Dean Spanos as a co-trustee in the trust and requests the disqualification of Michael Spanos as successor co-trustee.

Dean Spanos, Michael Spanos and Alexis Spanos Ruhl issued a statement saying they are united in continuing ownership of the team.

“It is unfortunate that our sister Dea, who clearly has no interest in continuing to participate in the family’s businesses, has resorted to leveling false and provocative charges in an attempt to impose her will on the rest of the family,” the statement said. “The three of us and our children, representing more than 75% of the family and its ownership of its businesses, stand united in support of our parents’ and grandparents’ wishes, including as to the continued ownership and operation of the Chargers.”

Dean Spanos and Berberian were left as co-trustees of the trust following the deaths of Alex and Faye Spanos in 2018.

Of the remaining 64% of the Chargers ownership stake, Dean Spanos, Berberian, Alexis Spanos Ruhl and Michael Spanos each own 15%. The remaining 4% is owned by non-family members.

Alex Spanos bought the San Diego Chargers in 1984 and Dean Spanos took over managing the franchise in 1994.

In the filing, Berberian accuses Michael and Dean Spanos of repeatedly acting “out of their deeply-held misogynistic attitudes and sense of entitlement as the men in the family.” It states that Dean and Michael “believe to their cores that, regardless of what their parents intended and their wills specified, men are in charge and women should shut up.”

Spanos Ruhl issued a separate statement saying the allegations by her sister are untrue.

“Throughout this entire ordeal that was instigated without justification by my sister Dea Berberian, my brother Dean has been unfailingly respectful of me and of my wishes. And he has been fighting, along with my brother Michael and me, to fulfill the wishes of our mother, Faye, relating to our family and our businesses,” she said. “To characterize Dean as somehow being less than fully respectful of the women in our family is just not right.”

According to the trust’s financial statements, debts totaled over $358 million as of Dec. 31, with debt service and expenses of at least $11 million per year. The trust’s stake in the Chargers makes up 83% of its holdings.

Forbes valued the Chargers at $2.6 billion in its recent franchise rankings. The trust’s share could be worth nearly $988 million.

Berberian has also accused Dean and Michael Spanos of borrowing over $60 million from the trust to buy an airplane and “deliberately” damaging her relationship with the pastor of her Greek Orthodox church.

Berberian filed a petition last March in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking to have the court put the trust and team’s ownership stake up for sale. Berberian agreed earlier this week to have the matter heard before the NFL in arbitration.

The NFL declined to comment on the matter.

A 24th woman filed a civil lawsuit Monday alleging sexual misconduct by Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is also awaiting possible discipline from the NFL.

The latest lawsuit was filed in Houston by attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing all 24 women.

“Lost in the media frenzy surrounding Deshaun Watson is that these are twenty-four strong, courageous women who, despite ridicule, legal shenanigans, and intense media scrutiny, continue to stand firm for what is right,” Buzbee said in a statement.

Watson has been accused by massage therapists of harassing, assaulting or touching them during appointments when he was with the Houston Texans.

The latest lawsuit makes similar allegations as the woman, a massage therapist, accuses Watson of assaulting and harassing her during an August 2020 session in her apartment. The woman alleges that during the massage session, Watson exposed himself and masturbated and “offered no apology or explanation for his conduct.”

The woman has quit being a massage therapist because of what happened to her and now suffers from depression and anxiety, according to the lawsuit.

Rusty Hardin, Watson’s lead attorney, said he could not immediately comment on the latest lawsuit.

“Our legal team has not had time to investigate this new filing and had not heard her name until today. Deshaun continues to deny he did anything inappropriate with any of the plaintiffs,” Hardin said in a statement Monday.

Hardin has previously said Watson had consensual sexual activity with three of the women and did not force any of his accusers to have sexual contact.

The first 22 lawsuits were filed in March and April of 2021, with the latest two being filed since two of the women detailed encounters with Watson while being interviewed on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

As the 24th lawsuit was being formally announced, Watson took part in the Browns’ charity golf outing in Rocky River, Ohio. Watson did not speak to the media.

Before Watson arrived at Westwood Country Club, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was asked if the latest lawsuit causes the organization to revisit with the quarterback about his legal situation.

“With that, we’re trying to just be respectful of the process and let that take care of it,” Stefanski said.

Two separate Texas grand juries in March declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.

But Watson could still be suspended if the NFL determines he violated the league’s personal conduct policy. The three-time Pro Bowler has been interviewed by league investigators, who will present their findings to disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson. Commissioner Roger Goodell said last month the investigation was nearing a conclusion.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy said there was no update on the investigation or any timeline.

“We will decline comment as the matter remains under review,” he said in an email to The Associated Press.

Watson has maintained his innocence, saying any sexual activity was consensual.

At his introductory news conference with the Browns in March, Watson denied any wrongdoing. “I’ve never assaulted or disrespected or harassed any woman in my life,” Watson said. “I’ve never done these things people are alleging.”

Stefanski said Monday the team is prepared to handle whatever the league decides.

“I think all along we’re just going to take those things day-by-day and when we have information, then we’ll act on said information,” he said.

Watson was traded from the Texans to Cleveland in March and then signed a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract with his new team despite his ongoing legal problems.

Cleveland signed veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett to back up Watson. Baker Mayfield remains on the team, but the Browns are looking to trade the No. 1 overall pick in 2018.

Watson has been participating in the Browns’ offseason team activities, which will continue this week. The team has a mandatory minicamp scheduled from June 14-16.

Professional wrestling legend Ted DiBiase and sons Ted. Jr. and Brett are being sued as part of a lawsuit aimed at reclaiming around $24 million in misappropriated federal funds.

As reported by WLOX, the DiBiases are amongst 38 individuals and companies accused of misusing welfare money earmarked to help people living below the poverty line in the state of Mississippi, the poorest in the US.

Also included in The Mississippi Department of Health Services’ case are former NFL players Brett Favre, Marcus Dupree, and Paul Lacoste. It is alleged that those named disregarded those they were intended to help with the funds, with attorney Brad Pigott offering the following comment:

“I do not understand these people. What kind of person would decide that money the law required to be spent helping the poorest people in the poorest state would be better spent being doled out by them to their own families, their own pet projects, and their own favorite celebrities?”

Per the suit, Ted Sr. owes $1.971 million, Ted Jr. $2.897 million, and Brett $824,258. The trio were involved in a scheme by Nancy and Zack New that saw “tens of millions of dollars” funnelled into other nonprofit activities. That money was supposed to “address the multiple needs of inner-city youth.”

Around $1.7 million is said to have been diverted to Ted Sr.’s Heart of David ministry, though a portion of this was used for personal expenses.

The DiBiases are yet to comment on the case.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer sued the woman who accused him of sexual assault in federal court Monday, in a move that came less than three months after prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges against the athlete.

The San Diego woman, whom the pitcher had met through social media, had alleged that Bauer beat and sexually abused her last year. She later sought — but was denied — a restraining order against him. Los Angeles prosecutors said in February there was insufficient evidence to prove the woman’s accusations beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bauer named the woman and one of her attorneys, Niranjan Fred Thiagarajah, as defendants in the lawsuit. The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault.

“She wanted to destroy Mr. Bauer’s reputation and baseball career, garner attention for herself, and extract millions of dollars from Mr. Bauer,” the lawsuit states.

Thiagarajah and Marc Garelick, another attorney who represents the woman, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Bauer was placed on administrative leave last July 2 under the joint domestic violence and sexual assault policy of Major League Baseball and the players’ association. The leave has been repeatedly extended and currently expires Friday.

Bauer has continued to be paid his $32 million salary while on leave.

After winning his first Cy Young Award with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020, Bauer agreed to a $102 million, three-year contract to join his hometown Dodgers. He did not pitch after June 29 and finished with an 8-2 record and a 2.59 ERA in 17 appearances. He was paid his $28 million salary last year.

Bauer’s lawsuit states that “the damage to Mr. Bauer has been extreme” after the woman alleged that he had choked her into unconsciousness, punched her repeatedly and had anal sex with her without her consent during two sexual encounters last year.

The pitcher has repeatedly said that everything that happened between the two was consensual in the nights they spent together in last April and May at his Pasadena home. He said the two engaged in rough sex at her suggestion and followed guidelines they agreed to in advance. Each encounter ended with them joking and her spending the night.

Last month, Bauer filed a defamation lawsuit against The Athletic and a former reporter, accusing them of “creating and spreading the false narrative” that he fractured the woman’s skull.

“We’re confident in our reporting and plan to defend against the claim,” Athletic spokesman Taylor Patterson previously said in a statement.

WWE Hall of Famer Tammy ‘Sunny’ Sytch and boyfriend James F. Pente have had a lawsuit filed against them following a three-car accident that led to 75-year-old Julian L. Lasseter’s death on 25 March.

PWInsider note that the suit was filed on 12 April. It alleges negligence on Sytch’s behalf, with Pente “vicariously liable”, as the accident occurred when the former Sunny was driving his vehicle, which he had given her permission for.

Lasseter’s estate are claiming damages “in excess of” $30,000 for medical and funeral expenses as a result of Syth’s actions. In addition, the lawsuit notes Lasseter’s daughter “has suffered, and will suffer into the future, the loss of her father’s companionship, instruction, guidance, and mental pain and suffering as a result of her father’s death.”

Sytch and Pente are yet to respond to the suit.

Although Sytch had not been arrested for her role in the crash, police reports indicate that she had driven her 2012 Mercedes into the rear of a 2013 Kia Sorrento that was stationary at a stoplight, with the Kia then crashing into a 2011 GMC Yukon, which was also stopped at the light. Lasseter, the Kia driver, was transported to a hospital for injuries suffered in the crash, then later passed away.

Police believe that Sunny was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident, though the results of a blood test taken at the time are yet to be revealed.